Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Ultimate Direction: AK Mountain Vest 3.0 (Signature Series) Review

Whether you’re a weekend warrior or an Ultra “tough” marathoner, we are bonded with this one common denominator…our passion to run. It is also that passion that drives us to advance and create much better gears. Ultimate Direction is no stranger to the world of sports endurance. Besides lab testing, their gears are tested by real athletes. One of the benefits of doing this is that UD gets the direct feedback from their athletes after testing and implement those changes immediately. This is what I like most with UD, their gears are bi-products of actual sweat and careful scrutiny of their tough athletes.

Speaking of tough athletes, if there’s anyone who knows what it takes to survive the brutal runs on the high countries, it’s Anton Krupicka (AK). UD collaborated with Anton to develop this one of a kind gear…hence they named the vest right after him, the AK Mountain Vest 3.0 signature series. To make it even more special, it comes in a new Canyon color that is very pleasing to the eyes.


Materials
·  150g Knit Mono Mesh: New 150gsm harness conforms to your body for absolute comfort and superior load carrying
·  180g Darlington Power Mesh: Lightweight strength with differential stretch in the x and y axis for enhanced load management
·  SilNylon/66: Silicone-Impregnated 30D nylon with a polyurethane face creates a permanently waterproof fabric, and substantially increases seam and tear strength

Features
·   Sliding rail sternum straps
·   Bottle holsters tighten to carry phone or camera
·   iPhone compatible pocket
·   Unique, on-the-go trekking pole holders
·   Double ice axe loops
·   Soft and flexible 150g mono-mesh
·   External stretch pocket for organization
·   Secure lateral pockets

Specs
·   Volume Capacity: 702 in3 / 11.5L
·   Weight: 11.55 oz. (14 oz. with bottles) / 330 g (400 g with bottles)
·   Height: 15.7 in. / 40 cm
·   Width: 11.4 in. / 29 cm
·   Depth: 7.5 in. / 19 cm

Sizing
·   SM: 24 - 33 in. / 61 - 84 cm
·   MD: 31 - 40 in. / 79 - 102 cm
·   LG: 36 - 46 in. / 91 - 117 cm
Note: As mentioned on their website that this vest fits differently from the previous version, please check the sizing chart here. You should measure around the bottom ribs for best fit.

Functionality
The AK Mountain Vest 3.0 is not just a vest to carry your hydration but rather a pack where you can store most of your essentials and gears. You don’t have to be in the “running” mode to appreciate this vest, you can use this while hiking, trekking or anything in between and rest assured that you will have all the storage you need while being versatile, compact and still be fast on your feet.

There are so many features on this vest, so let’s start out at the front and move around it. Starting off with the straps: On the left shoulder strap: is a small decent pocket that is secured by flap with Velcro, this pocket is waterproofSo if you are fond of listening to music then this is the best place to keep your small electronics safe and dry. On top of that is a (safety) whistle which I think is a mandatory requirement these days.


You can also find the same pocket on the opposite strap and the only difference is that it doesn’t have a flap that goes over the top. You can easily throw some of your valuables in there (like cash or car key). I tend to have the habit of checking my keys while running, making sure it’s still there and it is just within my reach. 

Just below that is a deep set of pockets designed to hold the two (2) collapsible 500 ml flask (included). It’s deep enough where I can almost push the entire flask down and secure it with the bungee cord. Similar pocket can be found on the opposite strap. You could also use this pocket to hold your phone but I suggest that you put it in a zip bag since this is not water proof, sweat and moisture can easily penetrate this area. I have a Google Pixel XL and it fits perfectly inside this pocket. Just underneath that bottle holder is a catch pocket (where UD logo is) that you can use to store your trash or other small items like gels and bars.


Right below that is another deep pocket that is stretchable enough where I can store my gloves, collapsible hat and electrolyte tabs. This pocket is also available on the right side and the only difference is that it is secured by a zipper. The zippered pocket is where I store my gels and gummies for easy access.

There are two sternum straps that are fully adjustable and can be slide up or down on an 11-inch rail for better fit and snug.


There are two loops on both sides of the strap that can host the trekking poles. So rather than having those poles sticking out from your back, it’s in the front for easy access which is a great feature.


Moving around the love handle areas are two large zippered pockets where you can find the hidden side strap (cinch) that you can micro adjust according to your circumference. I use this to store my energy bars and anything that has a flat surface. I like the idea that UD put on this pocket, they made sure that even when you put bulky items in it, this will not interfere with your arm swing.


Going to the back side, it has total of Five (5) separate compartments. The first compartment is the giant mesh pocket (where the Ultimate Direction word is). You can use this to store wet clothing like light jacket, arm warmer and beanie.


The next two compartments are just behind the giant mesh pocket (as you can see on the picture below), both has the same capacity. These two compartments are waterproof. The very top compartment has a key clip inside where you can keep your car key so they won’t be flying around when you start digging through your stuff. This is also a good place to keep your phone (and other electronics) protected from getting wet (I tend to keep mine in front though with a zip bag).


The last two big compartments are the one closest to the skin. It has two directional zippers (that you can open from either on top or bottom) and is separated by a mesh. This is big enough where you can store extra clothing, map, harness, crampons, rappel ropes, and more fuels. If the included 500 ml flask is not enough, this can also hold a 70 ounces (2L) of bladder for extra hydration (unfortunately this is not included but you can buy it separately). The bladder hose can be sent on either left or right section to the front of the pack.


Common to all UD vests is the bungee cord, you can easily use this to hold a rain jacket or some clothing that might be bulky to go inside the compartments. There are extra hooks on both sides if you want the bungee to get a little bit tighter. Down at the very bottom are two loops that you can use to hold the ice axe or hook for your climbing gears.    



@ Hidden Falls Regional Park
The test run: I’ve been incorporating quite a few trail runs to my regular road runs in preparation for my first Ultra marathon (Salmon 50k) this coming Saturday. I’ve tested quite a few hydration systems during the course of my trainings and each item has their own pros and cons, but overall, all of it are good and high quality products. I was undecided which one to use ‘till I tested the AK Mountain Vest 3.0. I have to be honest that this one tops all the hydration systems I have tested. The shape of the vest comfortably curves and hugs the circumference of my body. It also provides a quick access for adjustability depending on how much load you have in the vest.

One major issue with some vests is the type of materials they used, it tends to irritate skin and possible chafing could arise. Well not with the AK, the Knit mono-mesh fabric doesn’t rub to the skin and it provides better breathability,

The Darlington power mesh provides excellent stretch in all directions that is super durable and flexible at the same time. It also provides an excellent moisture management that wick moisture out fast.

The waterproofness of the selected compartments is one thing that everyone will surely appreciate. I put a napkin inside one of those compartments for wet test and sure enough…it is waterproof!

My Verdict
If you love the outdoor so much and spend most of your free time wondering around the trails or some unfamiliar grounds then the AK Mountain Vest 3.0 is the right gear for you. It’s an all-around multipurpose vest that allows a tremendous amount of storage space. You don’t have to be a runner or an Ultra Marathoner to appreciate this vest. From cycling, hiking, skiing, trekking and other activities you can think of, rest assured that it will provide abundant storage for your gears and other important stuff. No more reasons to leave those behind.

At a price of $154.95, it may not be the cheapest considering that it doesn’t have a 70 oz bladder but one thing for sure is that it is one of the best hydration systems you could own. I highly recommend that you give the AK Mountain Vest 3.0 a try and guaranteed that you won’t be disappointed. Below is a short clip courtesy of UD featuring the man behind this awesome vest.


Here are some of the Ultimate Direction gears that I have reviewed in the past. Enjoy!

Thanks for reading and hope that you find this review helpful. If you have any questions, feel free to drop below.

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